An NBC News investigation reports that QAnon, a conspiracy theory “about Trump’s top-secret war with a cabal of criminals run by politicians like Hillary Clinton and the Hollywood elite,” was picked up and developed by a small number of 4chan and 8chan users that have been using the anonymized identity of “Q,” which is at the center of the conspiracy, for financial gain.
Qanon was just another unremarkable part of the “anon” genre until November 2017, when two moderators of the 4chan board where Q posted predictions, who went by the usernames Pamphlet Anon and BaruchtheScribe, reached out to Tracy Diaz, according to Diaz’s blogs and YouTube videos. BaruchtheScribe, in reality a self-identified web programmer from South Africa named Paul Furber, confirmed that account to NBC News.
Diaz’s YouTube channel now boasts more than 90,000 subscribers and her videos have been watched over 8 million times. More than 97,000 people follow her on Twitter. Diaz, who emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, says in her YouTube videos that she now relies on donations from patrons funding her YouTube “research” as her sole source of income.
Pamphlet Anon, whose real name is Coleman Rogers, had developed grander plans. (NBC was able to determine Rogers’ identity through property records that link the address where his business is registered to his parent’s home and to photos from his personal social media account. Those photos show him to be the same person who appears on YouTube as Pamphlet Anon.)
Rogers, 31, and his wife, Christina Urso, 29, had launched the Patriots’ Soapbox, a round-the-clock livestreamed YouTube channel for Qanon study and discussion. The channel is, in effect, a broadcast of a Discord chatroom with constant audio commentary from a rotating cast of volunteers and moderators with sporadic appearances by Rogers and Urso. In April, Urso registered Patriots’ Soapbox LLC in Virginia.
Rogers and Urso use their channel to call for donations that are accepted through PayPal, cryptocurrencies or mail.